Election 2020

Forget Trump: Biden Is Less Popular Than Hillary Clinton Was at This Point in 2016

Hillary Clinton points to the audience as she is introduced at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Friday, May 25, 2018. Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute honored Clinton with the 2018 Radcliffe Medal. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The 2016 election was notoriously hard to predict thanks in part to the “silent” Trump voters. A key shift came just a week before Election Day when Hillary Clinton became more unpopular than Trump for the first time during the election cycle. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden may face an even more difficult race against Trump this year, particularly because he’s not just less popular than Trump — he’s also less popular than Clinton was in May 2016.

A new Civiqs/Daily Kos poll released on Wednesday found that 55 percent of Americans view Trump as “unfavorable,” while 43 percent view him as favorable, giving Trump a negative 12 percent approval rating.

In the same poll, however, 56 percent of Americans view Joe Biden unfavorably, while only 34 percent view him favorably, giving the Democrat a negative 22 percent approval rating.

This is astonishing, not just because Biden is more unpopular than Trump by about 10 percentage points, but because he is also far more unpopular than Hillary Clinton was at this point in 2016, according to the Huffington Post’s survey of polls.

In early May, a CNN poll found 48 percent of Americans viewed Clinton favorably, while 49 percent had an unfavorable view, for a negative 1 percent rating. Other polls placed her at negative 11 percent, negative 14 percent, negative 19 percent, negative 15 percent, negative 8 percent, and so on. Her average for the period between April 18 and May 15 was a negative 12.9 percent approval rating, below Trump’s current rating and far below Biden’s.

Biden’s popularity may have taken a hit for any number of reasons. He is currently facing sexual assault allegations from former Senate staffer Tara Reade. He has attempted to use the coronavirus crisis to push a hard-left agenda on climate change and voting “reforms” that would favor his own party. His gaffe-prone television appearances have made the argument against his campaign arguably more eloquently than Trump ever could.

Even so, the Civiqs/Daily Kos put Biden ahead of Trump, with 47 percent of voters saying they would vote for the Democrat and 44 percent saying they would vote for the Republican, another 7 percent saying they would vote for someone else, and 2 percent calling themselves “unsure.”

It is impossible to predict the winner this far out from the election, and the economic downturn from the coronavirus crisis makes a Biden victory slightly more likely. Even so, Biden’s extremely low favorability should be a bright neon warning sign for his campaign. It appears Democrats have rallied around Biden as an alternative to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but the likely nominee has nonetheless supported much of Sanders’ radicalism. In doing so, he may have succeeded in alienating both independents and the Bernie-or-Bust crowd in the Democratic Party.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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